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IOC president says he’s ‘fully committed’ to Tokyo Olympics despite coronavirus concerns

Preparations for the Tokyo Olympics continue. (Diego Azubel/ESA-EFE/ REX/Shutterstock)

With concern and uncertainty over the novel coronavirus continuing to rise, the head of the International Olympic Committee said the organization is “fully committed” to this summer’s Tokyo Games. Meanwhile, sports leagues and organizations are scrambling, with last-minute changes that include the sobering sight of games being contested in empty stadiums.

IOC President Thomas Bach told Japanese media in a conference call Thursday that the IOC is “fully committed to a successful Olympic Games in Tokyo starting July 24″ and refused to discuss any alternatives such as postponing, moving or canceling the Games. Those concerns were raised in an Associated Press interview this week by Dick Pound, a longtime member of the IOC, as he discussed a timetable for deciding the fate of the Games.

The 121-day Olympic torch relay is set to begin March 26 in Japan, and it may be downsized. There are, however, no plans to cancel it. “Bringing spectators together in large numbers increases the risk of infection,” Toshiro Muto, the Tokyo Olympics CEO, said Wednesday. “Downsizing is among the approaches we can consider. ”

Two pro golfers were reinstated at the last minute for this week’s Oman Open on the European Tour after being isolated to determine whether they had been infected. Edoardo Molinari and Lorenzo Gagli of Italy were to be roommates for the Oman tournament and began play Thursday after testing negative.

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Here’s a look at where things stand in global sports.


With the outbreak rising in Italy, this weekend’s Serie A matches at Juventus, Udinese, AC Milan, Parma and Sassuolo will take place, but fans will be barred from attending. Matches at Lazio, Napoli, Lecce and Cagliari will proceed with fans allowed to attend.

Italy: The Europa League round-of-32 match between Inter Milan and Ludogorets will take place Thursday behind closed doors. Inter was one of four Serie A teams that postponed games this past weekend. No decision has been reached on whether to allow fans to watch Monday’s Sampdoria-Hellas Verona match.

Serie A fixtures to be played with no crowds: Juventus-Inter; Udinese-Fiorentina; AC Milan-Genoa; Parma-Spal; Sassuolo-Brescia.

Serie A matches to be played with fans: Lazio-Bologna; Napoli-Torino; Lecce-Atalanta; Cagliari-Roma.

Champions League: Juventus fans were cleared to travel to France for a Champions League match Wednesday against Lyon with “no special restrictions.”

China’s Super League: In China, where the virus originated, the Super League, the country’s premier league, postponed its season-opening matches this past Saturday, with no date for play to begin in a season that runs through Oct. 31.

China’s national team: The women’s team was quarantined after Olympic qualifying matches were moved to Australia.

South Korea: The professional soccer league postponed the start of its season.

Japan: The J League postponed all domestic games through early March and seven Levian Cup matches in February.

Switzerland: The Swiss soccer league postponed all of this weekend’s scheduled games to “an indefinite date.” The announcement came after the Swiss government on Friday imposed a ban until March 15 on all events expected to draw more than 1,000 people. There were 15 confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland as of Friday.

In other sports

Archery: The World Cup from May 4-10 in Shanghai was canceled.

Baseball: Fans will be not be allowed to attend the Japanese Baseball Organization’s 72 preseason games from Feb. 26 to March 15. In the United States, a Boston Red Sox prospect from Taiwan is being kept away from the team’s spring training facility over what a spokesperson said is an “overabundance of caution” because of the coronavirus. Chih-Jung Liu, 20, isn’t under quarantine.

Badminton: The Vietnam International Challenge that was to serve as a qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics was pushed from March 24 to June. The Lingshui China Masters tournament was recently canceled, too, and drops from the Olympic qualifying process.

Basketball: Asia Cup qualifying matches, including Philippines vs. Thailand and Japan vs. China, was postponed. Two women’s Euro League games (Reyer Venezia-TTT Riga and Schio-Sopron Basket) were postponed to Thursday and will be played in Ljubljana, Slovenia, rather than in Italy’s Venezia region.

Lance Stephenson, a former NBA player who signed a one-year deal with the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association last summer, left China and is working out in Indianapolis.

Boxing: The Olympic qualifiers for Asia and Oceania moved from Wuhan to Jordan.

Golf: The LPGA Tour canceled the Blue Bay tournament in Hainan and the Honda LPGA Thailand and HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore. The European Tour canceled the Maybank Championship in Malaysia and the China Open, both set for April. Spectators are banned from the Japan LPGA Tour’s Daikin Orchid tournament in Okinawa.

Horse racing: The Japan Racing Association has placed an indefinite ban on spectators.

Esports: The League of Legends LPL Spring tournament was postponed.

Hockey: The NHL is monitoring the outbreak in China as it considers whether to play games there again, as it did in the preseason in 2017 and 2018.

Motorsports: China’s Formula E race on March 21 was canceled, and the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix, set for April 19, was postponed.

Rugby: The Six Nations match between Ireland and Italy, set for March 7 in Dublin, was called off after Ireland’s minister for health, Simon Harris, said bluntly, “This game should not go ahead.” The decision came after a meeting with the Irish Rugby Football Union. Philip Browne, chief executive of the IRFU, said it was “perfectly happy” to cancel the men’s, women’s and under-20s games in hopes that the virus in Europe could be contained. The matches were not immediately rescheduled. The women’s match between Scotland and Italy, set for this past Sunday in Legnano, was called off.

Running: The March 1 Tokyo Marathon will go on as planned, but organizers have restricted it to elite runners only. It’s traditionally one of the world’s biggest marathons, with more than 37,000 runners last year. The Hong Kong and Pyongyang (North Korea) marathons were canceled entirely.

Sunday’s Paris half-marathon has been postponed, French authorities announced Saturday. Some 44,000 runners were expected to compete in the event, for which a makeup date has yet to be announced. Two people in France have died and there have been 73 confirmed coronavirus infections. France’s health ministry said Saturday that the country is preparing for an epidemic, and public gatherings with crowds of 5,000 or more have been banned.

Skiing: Downhill and super-G men’s World Cup races in Yanqing, China, were canceled.

Skating: The World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in South Korea were postponed.

Sumo: The Japan Sports Agency asked the Japan Sumo Association to consider changes to its March 8-22 grand tournament in Osaka. The possibilities are postponement, cancellation and closing the event to fans.

Table tennis: The world championship was moved from March to June in Busan, South Korea.

Tennis: Travel restrictions forced China to forfeit a Davis Cup tie against Romania, and the Women’s Tennis Association canceled the Xi’an Open tournament.

Water polo: The FINA Women’s Water Polo Olympic Games Qualification Tournament scheduled for March 8-15 in Trieste, Italy, was rescheduled for May 17-24.

World Athletics Championships: The World Athletics Indoor Championships, which were to take place in Nanjing, were postponed until next year.

X-Games: The first Winter X-Games to be held in China were postponed.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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